It is said that online gaming is fast becoming the latest frontier for cyber-criminals to attack. It’s easy to see why hackers and online criminals are heading that way too, given that the global online gaming industry is almost worth $100bn today.
Some suggest that online games – accessible via the internet – are breeding a new generation of cyber-criminals driven to attack and exploit communities of online gamers and eSports fanatics.
You only have to look back to the way in which online entertaining distribution service Steam became engulfed in a string of malware attacks to see that game-related attacks have evolved in recent times.
Steam alone enjoys a membership base of 125 million gamers online. The platform not only delivers games and patches via downloads, but it has also become a vast platform for the acquisition of in-game assets to enhance gaming experiences.
There have been serious concerns raised by cybersecurity experts Kaspersky Lab regarding the development of malware made specifically for the hijacking of sensitive information via the Steam platform.
The ‘Steam Stealer’ reportedly steals the account credentials of 77,000 Steam members each month and, with 1,200 types of malware in activity, Kaspersky’s researchers, Santiago Pontiroli and Bart P, claim these data breaches have “turned the threat landscape for the entertainment ecosystem into a devil’s playground”.
There’s no doubt that the evolution of eSports as a mainstream gaming industry has caught the attention of cyber-criminals. According to Newzoo, eSports revenues are forecast to reach $1.5bn by the turn of the next decade and sports bettors are also beginning to incorporate eSports betting strategies on games such as CounterStrike and League of Legends into their betting portfolio.
Market research firm, Eilers & Krejcik Gaming anticipate eSports betting turnover could exceed $23bn by 2020, with online bookmakers generating revenues upwards of $1.8bn from eSports alone.
The assault on the E-Sports Entertainment Association (ESEA), one of the world’s biggest online gaming communities, in December last year, resulted in the theft of 1.5 million gamer profiles. In total, there were some 90 fields of sensitive information stolen regarding each of the 1,503,707 profiles hacked by the cyber-criminals.
Although passwords and logins remained intact, the danger was that the data within the leaked records could make eSports fanatics open to social attacks through various phishing methods.
Nevertheless, the cybersecurity industry is actually turning to the world’s online gamers in a bid to utilize gamification to change people’s perception of cybersecurity. Gamification uses elements of gaming, such as competition, challenges and, rewards to trigger motivations in the minds of individuals to encourage them to become more actively involved, rather than avoiding it due to its sheer complexity.
One of the main problems the global cyber security industry has to overcome is the buy-in of security practices from professionals and executives in companies and organizations; many of whom don’t appreciate or recognize the genuine level of threat they face every single day.
Nevertheless, by applying game mechanics to serious online security situations, it is becoming possible to more closely align IT and cyber security staff with their office colleagues and fight together against the threat of cyber-criminals.
Connie Stack, chief marketing officer at Digital Guardian, said: “Employers would be wise to incorporate gamification into as many aspects of their jobs as possible. Employees are your last line of defense for data protection. Making […] cybersecurity more engaging will help improve the security posture of any organization who does it.”
Interestingly, the online gaming sector is expected to be one of a number of non-traditional industries to fuel market growth of the global cloud security market.
Although the cloud security sector experienced modest revenues of $1.41bn in 2016, forecasts anticipate immense growth in this market in the coming years, reaching $13bn by 2024, as industries such as online gaming desire better ways to protect identity data in the cloud.
The development of Games as a Service (GaaS) is certainly one to keep an eye on. Cloud gaming could soon mean players anywhere in the world will be able to stream their favorite computer games online just like they would with any other form of digital media such as movies and music.
By rendering games in 3D via cloud-based servers and simultaneously encoding frames, cloud gaming – like Nvidia’s – could offer an infinitely more secure gaming platform for the next-generation gamer.